The original Blair Witch Project is the most famous movie ever made about three people arguing over a map. I rewatched it a few months ago and had trouble staying awake, but the first time I saw the movie it was scary as hell. The footage was so amateurish it looked real. The camera shook. I couldn’t hear a damn thing. I didn’t know what was going on, just like the actors.
There is no element of the supernatural in the original Blair Witch Project. Everything that happens has an explanation. People who get lost in the woods become disoriented, losing track of time and traveling in circles. Yes, someone was messing with them, but that could have been anyone. Ghosts don’t pull out people’s teeth or hang stick figures on trees, but lunatics sure do.
Love it or hate it, The Blair Witch Project was a game-changer in the horror industry, triggering a flood of found-footage movies. It was only a matter of time before someone made a direct sequel. Unfortunately, the new Blair Witch is found-footage in name only. It looks professional. Sometimes the camera gets fuzzy and that’s it.
The plot: six attractive young people go into the woods. By doing so they are reenacting an ancient ritual, the stupid young sacrifices venturing into the unknown and dying horrible deaths, a la Cabin in the Woods. Our hero James sees a video of a frantic young woman racing through a deserted house on YouTube and thinks he recognizes his long lost sister Heather. Reasoning that maybe she’s been wandering around the woods for sixteen years, James decides to lead a rescue party consisting of his friends to find her.
Jim’s joined by best buds Peter and Ashley, along with a woman named Lisa who’s doing a documentary (déjà vu!). They equip themselves with GPS trackers and a drone. To me, the drone is the best thing in The Blair Witch; it’s an original touch, and when I saw it I held out hope for the movie.
Hope dwindled as our heroes visit the folks who put up the YouTube video. I’m not sure if Lane and Talia are brother and sister, boyfriend and girlfriend, or whatever. It doesn’t really matter. They display a huge Confederate flag in their living room, which creates some tension as Peter and Ashley are African American. Still, when Lane and Talia insist on joining the rescue party James agrees, another in a series of increasingly stupid decisions.
When our youthful heroes enter the woods the filmmakers break all the rules that made the first Blair Witch successful. There is a force and it is supernatural. James and his compadres grow much, much dumber. It would be interesting if this were another effect of the Blair Witch’s godlike powers, such as her ability to disable GPS trackers and control time. But I don’t think so.
A bug bites Ashley. Maybe it escaped from a Dave Cronenberg movie, because it sure doesn’t belong in this movie. Lane and Talia turn out to be frauds, hanging fake stick people from trees. They’re doing this because – I don’t know why. Does it really matter? In this movie plot points don’t pay off, scenes are cut and people’s actions are never explained. Oh, and I almost forgot to mention the trees. Trees are deadly in The Blair Witch. A tree falls on one of our heroes and another decides to climb a tree – in the middle of the night, with an injured foot – which goes about as well as you’d expect.
The plot lurches onwards. We catch a few glimpses of the Blair Witch, and she looks like just another CGI movie monster. The Final Girl enters the Blair Witch Bed & Breakfast and ends up crawling through a mud pit, which is as close to a sex scene as we get in this movie. And then it’s all over.
I am not going to claim to be a fan of the original Blair Witch Project, which I saw in the theater, but there’s no denying it broke new ground. The Blair Witch is just another in a long line of horror movies about dumb kids getting themselves killed.